The human body is complex, with trillions of cells creating the person we see when we look in the mirror. No two people are entirely identical. Even identical twins show slight changes in makeup due to genetic mutation. Despite our difference in appearances we share many things in common including the need for physical exercise.
Our bodies are designed to move, and they suffer the consequences when we don't get adequate exercise. Including a walk in your daily routine can make a positive difference in your physical and mental fitness and can lead to greater overall health if you make it part of your schedule and part of your lifestyle.
Breaking up a Sedentary Lifestyle
It's easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle in North America and according to statistics many people do. North America leads the world in terms of the percentage of people who are overweight and obese. We have access to virtually everything we need at our fingertips, and use technologies that require very little of us in terms of physical activity. Video games, texting, computer use, watching television and live streaming usually involve sitting or lying down. Our job may keep us sitting at a desk for 8 hours or more. At the end of the day many people are too exhausted or fatigued to think about anything but eating, relaxing and sleeping. Going for a walk is a simple and economical way to introduce some physical activity to the day, and the benefits are potentially great.
The Benefits of Walking
On average North Americans take 4500 - 5000 steps per day. Older people tend to take fewer steps, and young children and teens take on average 10000 to 16000 steps per day. Every step taken is a good step towards physical fitness, but increasing the amount of steps taken can result in immediate benefits. As with all forms of physical exercise it's best to confer with your doctor for suitability. The physical and mental benefits of walking include the following:
Mental Benefits There has long been a connection between walking and thinking. Walking, especially outside, and in nature has a way of "clearing the cobwebs" from our mind, increasing the flow of creative ideas, and lifting our spirits. It is a proven method of reducing anxiety and stress and has been shown to have a positive impact on memory. Walking can boost one's mood, increase one's level of energy and enthusiasm, and change one's perspective for the better. Connecting with a friend, family member or dog by walking together can make one feel happier. Generally speaking, people who are physically active feel better about themselves and have a more positive view.
Physical Benefits The physical benefits of walking are many and include but are not limited to the following:
(1) Weight Loss This may seem obvious but taking a daily walk will help you burn calories and can reduce belly fat. Switching up the speed at which you walk, and choosing routes that have different inclines will help add to the calorie burn. Walking can also help you reduce stress related eating.
(2) Risk Reduction for Chronic Disease Walking can help you reduce your risk to a number of diseases including cancer, heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and depression. It creates better blood circulation and healthier arteries. It can also strengthen your immune system and make you less susceptible to colds and illness.
(3) Improved Digestion Walking requires the use of core and abdominal muscles which promote movement in our digestive system.
(4) Strengthen Bones and Muscles With the greater circulation and the weight that we place on our bones when we walk, our bones are fortified, and through the increased exercise our muscles are strengthened.
(5) Low Impact Activity Unlike running which is a high impact activity, walking is a low impact activity which is more forgiving to the joints in our body.
(4) Better Sleep Carving some time out in your schedule during the day to take a walk can lead to better sleep at night which in turn can create higher energy levels during the day.
(5) Longer Life Adding physical exercise such as a daily walk can lead to a longer life.
Government agencies suggest that we get about 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. Setting up a walking routine can easily fill this bill. Get a comfortable pair of walking shoes, start at your own pace, build up the duration and intensity of your walks as you progress, stay consistent but don't beat yourself up when you miss a walk, get friends or family to join you, and walk your way to fitness !.
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